May 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Thanks for being patient with me on this months desktop wallpaper. Moving is a lot of work! I am running a few days behind. One of the unexpected joys I am finding at this new house is how loud the birds are in the morning! Tim has had to shut the window a few times in the morning because they were so noisy. I love it. So the artwork this month is inspired by our new noisy neighbors.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

This months poem is from a Newberry award book called The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I love it so much –

“The heart is built of starlight

And time.

A pinprick of longing lost in the dark.

An unbroken chord linking the Infinite to the Infinite.

My heart wishes upon your heart and the wish is granted.

Meanwhile the world spins.

Meanwhile the universe expands.

Meanwhile the mystery of love reveals itself,

again and again, in the mystery of you.

I have gone.

I will return.

Glerk”

 Kelly BarnhillThe Girl Who Drank the Moon

 

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

Some Art Pieces I Have Never Shared

As I have been going through old photos as a part of our moving process, I came across several pictures of artwork I don’t think I have ever shared on this space. Most of these were various commissions. All have them have sold, but I thought you might enjoy seeing these.

(If you are ever interested in commissioning a piece, feel free to contact me at betonycoons@mac.com) 

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This piece about a small mining town in Alaska – created for a beautiful family that spends half their time in Colorado and half in Alaska.

This commission for a missionary on an Indian Reservation struggling to find home in the midst of difficulties –

These little tiny painting about light and warmth and springtime –

This tattoo design –

This painting I made during a live painting performance with Tim about light and home –

This butterfly commission piece about being remade –

This “Frolicking Flowery Fox” made as part of a concept project that never panned out –

This Metallic bird piece –

This block print for a Country Western Band –

 

And this project I just finished TODAY for a beautiful travel loving couple in Denver. They also love antiques, so I found and refinished this ornate gold frame to complement the painting.

February 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Ancient Greece:

Because of the olympics, we thought this would be a great month to learn about ancient Greece.

We read D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and I made these peg doll representations of each of the main greek gods with help from the girls.

We also read Lightning Thief for the first time.

And enjoyed tasting Mediterranean food courtesy of our TopMunch subscription

Coloring Greek god and goddess trading cards

Drawing mythical monsters

A selection of the Greek books we enjoyed exploring

Book Arts:

For our making this month, we explored the Book Arts – Marbled paper and Book Binding!

Making marbled paper for the end papers of our books –

Working on the covers for Asian stab-bound sketchbooks we made –

Harriet made an “un-tearable” tiny baby book for Arlo out of packing tape and her own illustrations

Constellations:

For science/nature this month, we learned about constellations (which tied in beautifully to our Greek Myth studies)

Magnets, Math, and Money:

In our little impromptu science club, we tried our hand at making Magnetic Slime

Played with fractions

Learning about money – “Count It and Keep It!” was a big hit with the kids.

Olympics:

The Olympics are my favorite! So fun to get to share this with the kids. We made tiny flags and olympic ring shirts for the opening ceremony.

Lots of USA spirit over here!

Watched Cool Runnings too just for fun

Preschool:

Learning about color mixing using air dry clay and “Do You Know Colors”

Lots of help from Buzzy getting this art piece ready to deliver to Houston

Stamping Letters

Valentines Day:

The table for valentines morning –

We participated in a Homeschool Valentine Exchange. So much fun!

Lots of love notes were written to each other

 

A very chilly Valentine tea party out in the tree house

Some of our homemade Valentines we made –

 

Valentine party in Kansas with Grandparents!

Wood Carving:

While in Kansas, we got to learn about wood carving from my Grandpa Fritz. So beautiful to watch.

 

Moving to a New House and a Song About Home

The blessings came in waves
and could be felt for days
O, how my bones still shake at your names
In sweat we set the stones
in blood we brick the roads
a holy breaking comes for every home

Give me your hand, we’ll climb up the balcony
Ditch the front row and sway with the symphony
Make as much noise and be as we want to be
Your voice in my voice and hands are the canopy
Feel the old rhythm play what’s inside of me

The fields are glories now, the fields are glories now
So guide your wild eyes down
The promise in the pain, the code that’s in the grain
We’ll move beneath the weight ‘til you raise


When I was a child, around this time of year on the orchard my dad would prune all the apples trees. I would help look for branches that were crossed, or growing in at strange angles. We would then clip off the offending branches and sometimes prop them with these little red supports to help them grow straight so that they could get the best light possible and eventually grow the best fruit.

Tim and I are moving to a new house in 10 days. We bought a “fixer upper” in the middle of town near a big park. It’s a MUCH bigger house in a nice quiet neighborhood. We weren’t really planning on moving yet, but then suddenly everything fell into line at the same time, like it does.

This whole moving thing is crazy… crazy exhausting, crazy nerve wracking, crazy exciting, and crazy scary.
Ten Years.
Ten years we have lived in this house I am sitting in right now.

I know where every light switch is and where to step over the crooked floor boards.
I know the name of every plant in the garden,
why there is a funny hole in the kitchen screen,
how to walk in the middle of the night so the squeaking floor doesn’t wake the children,
the funny trick to the bathroom door downstairs,
and the story behind most of the nail holes on the walls.

It’s where I found out I was pregnant for the first time and where I brought each of my four babies home to. It’s the place where we’ve had so many wonderful Christmases, Thanksgiving feasts, and simple, every day meals.
It’s where my children took their first steps, laughed their first laughs, and tried their first foods.

It’s also where Harriet broke her leg,
where the basement flooded too many times,
where I had my anxiety breakdown,
where Tim and I had our most difficult fights,
where we had belongings stolen off our front porch,
and had to call the cops on the neighbors so many times.

This house is old. It’s been around more than 100 years.
It really has seen its fair share of marital fights and make ups.
It’s flooded but it’s dried back out.
It’s been cold and drafty and also cozy and safe.

I hope it will be around for at least 100 more years. I hope it will be the same gift to the next residents as it has been to us. (Please take care of my planty’s!)

I am sure for this home, 10 years is just a blink. But it feels so significant to me. 

Somehow leaving this house feels much more substantial then leaving high school or leaving college. I suppose if you look at it that way, those were only four year institutions. This home has been ten of mine.
Ten years of themed birthday parties and late night hard conversations with friends sitting on the kitchen floor (the best place for those kinds of talks),
nights pacing back and forth with wakeful babies,
ten years of pinching pennies to patch the wear and tear of everyday life,
of having tea on the front porch,
hosting cooking clubs and wedding showers,
play dates,
years with miscarriages, mistakes, and misadventures.
All the rhythms of our days and what I know have been centered in this place for ten years.

You can hear it in my lists… It is breaking me to leave. It feels like a close friend.

Like family.

And I am scared.

Scared this new home won’t be me.
Scared I’ll hate it.
Scared something will happen to the kids and I’ll somehow blame this decision.
I am scared it will change me. Change us.

And yet it’s time.

Time to move on, time to adventure out, time to try something new, try our hand at starting with a blank canvas, try this new place out. It’s time to move.

Time passes so damn fast, doesn’t it?

My babies are getting bigger. It comes to the end of the day and I wonder. Wonder if I did it right, wonder if I could have played it out differently, wonder if this is it, wonder are we centering our lives on the right things? Wonder if we are making the right choice.

10 days. We are moving in 10 days.

So I’ve been obsessing over this new place. This new house.

It’s not the one I would have picked. I did not like it at first.
I love old and history and craftsmanship.
This is black shag carpet and popcorn ceilings. And florescent lights. And 80s. On a cul-de-sac.

So I have created every pinterest board, design mood board, photoshopped room, shopping budget, detailed plan I can possibly do with out actually living there.

And I am starting to see it.

See the lovely that could be revealed there.

I know I can make it beautiful.
I know WE will make it beautiful.
I think about how it’s only about a block from a huge green space,
and a pool,
and how I found rhubarb sprouting up near the fence,
and how this one room feels like the barn I grew up in,
and how the layout is perfect for us,
and how we will have room to spread out,
and be able to have people over more easily,
and host house concerts,
and how I want to give every room its own theme,
and how we are going to start off by pitching tents and camping in the great room,
and so many other new things.

It will be a challenge to start from a blank slate.
But we can’t wait. We are so excited.

And still, the packing and processing all the memories and moments sucks. It is such an emotionally wrecking experience. 

Is this pruning?

Pruning is painful but good. It helps us grow straight and true so we can bear more fruit.
The truth is that I am scared about not being able to find the light switches,
and whether I can hear the playroom from the kitchen,
and having to use a 1980’s electric stove for the next ten years,
and life on a cul-de-sac,
and even more that feeling of being exhausted and wanting to go home and not being able to.

But then I take that step back.
I am reminded of my white privilege and how we are going to be living in a mansion compared to the rest of the world, and how millions of refugees can’t ever go home again, and I feel stupid. Stupid white suburban mom. Ha.

You make it work and you make it beautiful and you invite people into the mess,
because it is NOT about it being beautiful.
And it is NOT about it being ugly.
And whether it is HERE or THERE doesn’t matter.

It is about WE. And US. And TOGETHER. And HOME. And LOVE in the best way we can.

And so, let’s adventure on family.

April 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

My good friend Wes Sam-Bruce shared this poem at his film screening for The Wonder Sound. It has been floating around in my head ever since. So good.

“Widening Circles”

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

So here is to living our lives in ever widening circles. Migrating outward…

More on that soon. It’s been crazy around here lately….

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

The Fire at the Orchard and a Song About Hope

A couple weeks ago an arson’s fire tore through central Kansas burning 800 acres. My wife’s mom and dad, who live on an apple orchard, lost almost everything. About 180 acres of their trees, farm buildings, equipment etc. burned. Their home miraculously survived as my father-in-law placed several sprinklers around the perimeter before making the final exit.

Betony and I were on tour in Houston and when we got back helped out with cleanup and rebuilding. While there, I had a chance to be with Mike and Elaine as they processed the great loss. In the turmoil of emotions and the various stages of grief I was very inspired by pictures we all were receiving of resilience and hope.

As we prepped and leveled the foundation to rebuild the well, my father-in-law, Mike, recounted just how incredible it was that people came out of the woodwork to help. Neighbors rushed in on four-wheeler‘s, people called and wrote with thoughts and prayers, and a go-fund-me reached its mark within the week.

Then, as we were throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of burnt hoses, the same hoses that saved the house, Mike told me to look over at the swing-set he’d built for the grandkids. It had fully lost one of its legs in the fire but was still standing, swaying slightly in the breeze.

“Do you think I’ll rebuild that Tim? Hell yes I will.“

Lastly, we received a FedEx delivery of 10 new cherry trees. Mike talked to their FedEx delivery woman who freely cried at the sight of devastation and offered condolences. As we were digging the holes for the new cherry trees, Mike excitedly ran over to to something he saw in the dirt. There was a large patch of new buds coming up only days after the fire had ripped through. He told me these were a specific type of flower that will now bloom brightly. It actually took a fire to enact their seeds.

With these pictures of hope and resilience: people rushing to help, the steadfast spirit of rebuilding in the face of destruction, an orchard on the edge of blooming wildflowers after devastation, I’m so taken by the paradox of death to rebirth. It’s stirring how hardship, tragedy, darkness, and death is answered by such resilience and hope and new life.

This week is Easter. It’s a great time to reflect on the darkness and tragedy found on Good Friday, and the new life and new hope that bursts forth on Easter Sunday.

Here’s a song I wrote specifically about hope called “There is a Balm in Gilead”. The title is taken from an old spiritual of the same name. The writers of that African-American spiritual encountered an old testament scripture that speaks of there being NO balm in Gilead to aid in suffering. And these writers, in there hardship and turmoil, answered with such hope and resilience. They stated no, there IS a balm in Gilead. God is our hope, our freedom, and our new life.

In the face tragedy, new life will burst forth. This is our great hope.

Here are the lyrics and the song for you to listen to.

There is a balm in Gilead
it comes like a  wisdom but speaks like children
it’s a sight to the blind and a strength to my weakness
it’s something for soul, body, mind

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s a rest for the weary, a song to the sore
its like a dew to my dryness
that fills me with joy when I had none

There is a balm in Gilead
its a spring in the desert
for the withered of soul
it’s a strength and a power
that keeps making you whole
its the question your asking
and the answers you need
it’s the face you’ve been seeking
the one, the one you’ve been begging to see

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the trash and the remnants
of all my train wrecks
coming together
and still heading out west
like a blank paycheck paying off the back rent
taking me further to
whatever’s supposed happen next

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the light of the dawn
the scales without measure
it’s the bread of a baker
the blood of a maker
The water I long for
and the story on fire
its the breath and the magic
Its something to die for
it’s the laying down of the shepherd at night

There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead

January 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

JAPAN:

We continued our world tour this month with a “trip” to Japan. This was definitely one of our favorite countries/cultures yet! I surprised the girls by setting up a Japanese style low table in the middle of our dining room with zen inspired decorations and gave them each a silk kimono (twelve dollars on amazon!).

We had a Japanese tea party –

We practiced calligraphy and mark making with these lovely Teagas water scrolls –

We played with origami –

And REALLy loved getting to try all these yummy Japanese snacks from our TopMunch box!

  Watched fascinating videos about silkworms and zen gardens –  

We of course went out for sushi at the end of the month!

SNOW:

A reoccuring theme for January for us is “Snow”! Thanks Colorado!

A day at the best sledding hill –

All the snow books –

Building a funny snow man (snow deer?)

Painting snowy scenes

READING:

Lots of letter play for this little one –

The two big girls joined the Secret Society of Letter Writers

And for Harriet this month we worked REALLY hard to read every day. She has been doing so great!

Polymer Clay and Stop Motion:

We had lots of fun making some little stop motion videos with my iphone and also made lots of oven bake figures.

IMG_7713

 

ART:

So many fun art projects this month. Buzzy helping me do the underpainting on a canvas –

Painting owls inspired by Owl Moon

Painting our to-do list clip boards

Face painting fun

And a really cool art show up at the university

BOOK CLUB:

For book club this month, we read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

We got to experience Chinese Hot Pot

 

Went on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon

Had a great discussion

And celebrated the Year of the Dog

DINOSAURS:

Our Natural History Museum at a really cool touring exhibit of dinosaur skeletons, so we adventured to Denver to check it out.

Digging for dinosaur fossils

HOMEMAKING:

Some days, when the chaos is winning, it is best to take the morning off from normal homeschool and learn about the lost arts of homemaking. Headphones and fun music help (Annie soundtrack all the way for these girls)

Harriet came up with her own recipe for Orange Cake. Turned out pretty tasty!

A dinner Lucy and Harriet made.

One day Lucy really wanted to build something. So they designed, built, and painted this shelf with a cup holder for next to their bed.

Bellwether, Our Newest Full-Length Album, is Released

A few years ago, Betony and I had a chance to go to the Grand Canyon. The view was transformative in its expansive nature. As we were taking everything in a storm began to form on the southern rim. We watched the dark clouds roll toward us with a constant display of lightning. It was unimaginatively beautiful. It took our breath away in that same way entering a cathedral can.

This last Thanksgiving we spent in our own home. We usually travel to parents but Arlo was a newborn so we stayed close. The table was set, some family joined us, and the time was so simple and grounded. It felt like a sacred space. Not quite as drastic as a cathedral experience, but sacred non-the-less.

In the spring when Beatrice was 2, she had a series of seizures. After the third one in a day we took her to Denver Children’s Hospital at 4 AM under a harsh, bright moon. We prayed and we cried in fear. I remember humming “All Creatures of Our God and King”. We later found out the seizures were normal post-stomach bug. They stopped after we did a regime of medicine. It may be strange to call this space sacred, but the pain and unknowing of the situation broke something open in us. There’s something holy in that.

The guiding themes in writing this album for me was “sacred space”. In the midst of writing I realized songs were falling into 3 distinct areas: cathedrals, tables, and dark fields. We are somehow formed by these spaces.

We hope you enjoy our new album, Bellwether, and find yourself familiar with the resonating of these transforming spaces.
Listen/Purchase:

Spotify
iTunes
Bandcamp

March 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

We almost bought a house last week. We put an put an offer in, dreamed about flipping a dusty ugly place into something beautiful, had our offer turned down, put another offer in, cried a lot about the emotion of leaving a house we love, started the process of getting ready to list our house, talked to the kids about moving, talked the kids down from both crazy excitement and mourning, worried about all the money bits, and worried more. And then, after all that, had our offer turned down in favor of a lower one (without a contingency).

Still not sure why we had to go through all of that emotional wreckage, or where it will lead. Obviously my hopelessly optimistic heart would like it to mean there is something better out there waiting for us… But that is yet to come.

So this months image is about homes – past and future. The bones that we live within. Our migration of moving. Packing our belongings and moving from one structure to the next. Taking and making home where we land.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

The poem this month is one that Tim found while running when we were first married. It was taped to an overpass on a scrap of paper. It was only recently that we discovered that it was from a Jewel lyric.

Joy, Pure Joy, I am

What I always wanted

to grow up and be

Things are becoming

more of a dream with

each waking day-

The heavy brows of Daily Life

are becoming encrusted

with glitter and the shaking finger

of consequence is

beginning to giggle

Grumpy old men

have wings

Burns sport Halos

and everyday dullness

has begun to breathe

as I remember the

incredible lightness

of living

Jewel lyrics from “On Moving into my Van”

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

And don’t forget! Our new album is finally available for preorder – here!! 

A Song About Anxiety

I don’t want to sensationalize the story, but I want to be truthful in how it felt. 

Last year in May, Betony was admitted to the emergency room for the second time that week. We were at a loss as to what was going on and we were really damn scared.

It started earlier in the month, where she would feel a sensation that was hard for her to subscribe. Often this would come on at night as we were going to bed. It was like a quickening of the heart or like she was falling. At least that’s how she tried to describe it to me. Then she’d shake violently for 20 or 40 minutes after the rushing feeling left her. This was also accompanied by really dark thoughts, uncharacteristic for her.

She didn’t think it was anxiety, because her mindset really wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed or mad or anxious. So was it her heart? Or some strange sickness we hadn’t placed?

Like I said, we were damn scared and symptoms were getting worse rather than better.

And during that second visit, the emergency room doctor, an eccentric personality mix of kindness and blunt force, sat down with us. He told us all the tests had come back clean again for this second time- heart, blood work, thyroid, etc. It all looked fine. So we have to consider anxiety. He said it several times. We HAVE to consider anxiety.

Betony was upset at this. Anxiety felt like a non-answer or catch all. In that old show “House”, the brilliant doctor would figure out what strange disease the patient actually had… the colleagues he outsmarted always thought it was lupus. A designation of anxiety felt like a sloppy, semi-educated guess of “lupus”.

In the same way I don’t want to sensationalize the story, I also don’t want the following to feel prescriptive either. What is working for us might not translate for someone else’s anxiety symptoms. But I want to share our process of the last year.

My wife approached the diagnosis as scientifically as possible. She gave the different medicines they prescribed trials and tests. She settled on a beta-blocker and half a sleep aid at night and took both of those for about 3 months. 

She also read everything she could about anxiety; what is known and what is being discovered and followed the threads she trusted. Ideas she found helpful, though may in the end NOT be proven scientifically, she held loosely to see if results followed.

One of these ideas is that perhaps her anxiety was attached to a fight or flight scenario. In this season of life she’s raising four kids and one is a baby who sleeps lightly at night and she also is a part time artist and is also homeschooling…

That’s a full life and there are moments of intensity that can happen. These moments can trigger the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. For example, driving all the kids home from Denver by herself and two of the kids are screaming for an hour and it’s past everyone’s bedtime, including her own. If the brain goes into crisis mode and sends adrenaline and other chemicals to her muscles and systems… there has to be some negative effects on body and brain in these scenarios. 

So alongside her medication she’s also been working out a little more, getting her heart rate up in case there is extra adrenaline or other things happening in her body she needs to move through. And perhaps this helps with the shaking as well.

With medication and working out we also added counseling. For Betony’s personality this was difficult but good. (That could probably be counseling’s tagline- Difficult but good.)

Since August of last year she went off of medication and has not been symptomatic. She’s had some rough days, but for the most part things have been better thus far. And at the very least we’re out of that place of deep fear.

Now, Betony is an immensely private person. We haven’t really shared this story publicly on social medias, though we’ve talked about it with friends and family and church communities.

We offer the story now alongside a song. While working through this season together, Betony and I were surprised at just how many stories of other people suffering from anxiety came to light. It remains fairly mysterious and scary and unexplored. It can come across like a catch all or a diminishing of something that is truly happening in our brains and bodies.

As I processed all of this I wrote this song called “Settled Down”. So we offer this story alongside this art for a since of solidarity. We hope you find the conversation we’ve offered helpful and open and caring.

Pre-Order Bellwether now and receive the single “Settled Down”

Lyrics for “Settled Down”

I’ll keep my hand here on your back
I won’t move it while you sleep
The shaking hours have settled down
Take all the help that you need

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

What the wires couldn’t catch
Fails to give a certainty
And the world stirs around
On the edge of all you see

We can put blankets under the leaves
We can fill pages and keep on the dream
I set a good table, take all that you need
I can set more if you come back to me

We can keep sleeping, be late on the rise
We can stay novel with every surprise
I set a good table, take all that you need
They all remain open, you see what I mean

We will blur edges and rid every cage
We will push candles and feel every blaze
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

We will see colors that wonder and burst
We will raise glasses that rid every thirst
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

You put it on just like a hiding place
With three separate acts, that ends in disgrace
In the morning everything is safe
and you make your way back home

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home